The boundaries exist; whether writers should obey them is another matter.
Once a book is published, it is out of the writer’s control. All it takes is for one person to object to a book for no one in that school, or library, to be given access to it. What a writer can control are the words they put on the paper and it is our job to tell the story, not second-guess the audience – or the adults who police the audience. If we observe the rules of what we “shouldn’t” write about, then we are not preventing the students in a single school from reading our truth, we are preventing every reader in the world from reading it.
“There are too many taboos on what to write and how to write it,” says Taghreed Najjar, who has twice been shortlisted for the YA category of the new Etisalat prize for Arabic children’s literature. “It’s easier to sell books for younger children under the guise of educating them or strengthening their moral fibre. People who bought these kind of books were parents and teachers. But YA has to appeal to young adults to sell well, hence the dilemma.”